They both came home for spring break back in early March, and they never left.
At first, we thought it would be a few weeks. You know, until we got this whole coronavirus pandemic thing under control as a nation. With one living in New York City for college and the other in Worcester, Mass., also for college, we thought by early April they’d be back at it.
But then we got locked down. First New York, then Connecticut, where we live, then Massachusetts. March became April. April became May. College became “virtual.” They would text me from their classroom/bedrooms, asking me to bring up coffee and “please make sure you stay out of the Zoom.”
I would go to bed every night with a clean kitchen, wiped down counters, and an empty sink. I would wake in the morning to a sink full of dishes, a counter covered with mac-n-cheese dust, tomato sauce, and something sticky but unidentifiable. They roamed the hallways in the wee hours, whispered into Facetimes with friends, played Call of Duty until the sun rose. The dog gave up trying to figure it all out.
In May, our daughter finished her bachelor’s of arts degree, and we all watched a nice ceremony on Zoom. Our niece had her bat mitzvah, on Zoom. Our son wrapped up a very successful freshman year of college, and we celebrated in the kitchen.
May became June. My front porch had morphed into a weird conglomeration of diner, saloon, therapist office, package drop, midnight oasis. I never knew what I was going to find when I ventured out there, morning, noon, night. Who, or what. The dog gave up trying to figure it all out. In the morning, I’d sweep the porch floor and toss all the Truly cans into the recycling. What happened on the front porch stayed on the front porch.
June became July. The girl hasn’t really lived here since the end of her sophomore year in college. Life in New York was starting to wake up, and the itch to get back to what was really her life was starting to burn. Of course our little neck of the woods had been relatively unscathed from COVID, and New York appeared to be cautiously optimistic they had things under control. Maybe it was time.
The last time I had this much uninterrupted time with my children was before they went to preschool. And the last time we had a months-long streak of family dinners was probably when they were in elementary school. And while I am truly, madly, deeply sick-and-fucking-tired of cooking, I will look back on those dinners — the New York Times Cheesy Spicy Black Beans, the tacos, the casseroles, the tortilla pies, the grilled chicken, etc etc etc — and smile.
We went from winter, to spring, to summer, together. We did the best we could in our corona bubble. We took innumerable walks, watched some movies, marched for Black Lives Matter, debated politics and science and healthcare and America, we stayed safe, we stayed healthy, we pretty much stayed sane.
She goes back to New York tomorrow, for her final year of school to get her BFA. She’s already secured an internship (virtual, of course). There’s been mad laundry and sorting and packing. I look in her room at all the bags and piles and suitcases and I have to turn away because my eyes fill up.
He will leave in late August. And then we will be thrust back into the empty nest thing, that state of affairs that we had literally just about gotten used to when they suddenly came back.
It was a rare opportunity, what the coronavirus gave us. Amidst the national despair and destruction, in our little bubble, we had each other.